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Friday, 24 July 2015

Clandon Park - remembering the house before the fire

Clandon Park - front entrance (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Clandon Park - front entrance (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Never the same again

On 24 July 2014, my husband, Andrew, and I visited Clandon Park, Surrey, in the blazing sunshine. Today, it is pouring with rain and Clandon is but a shadow of the house we looked round, having being gutted by fire in April 2015. I always meant to blog about Clandon, but we visited so many National Trust properties last summer that I did not get around to it.

Since our visit, I have used Clandon in my writing - there is a brief reference to Clandon Park in A Perfect Match. I invented a friendship between Lord Onslow (George Onslow – see below) and my character, the Duke of Wessex, and planned for the Duke to pay his old friend a visit on the way to London.

One year on, I thought I would revisit Clandon Park with the aid of my guidebook. Sadly, we were only allowed to take pictures in the Marble Hall, so our photographic record is limited to that room and external views of the house.

Capitals in the gardens at Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Capitals in the gardens at Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Onslows of Clandon Park

Clandon Park has belonged to the Onslows since 1641. The Onslow family has a particular claim to fame: they have provided three Speakers for the House of Commons: Richard Onslow, The Black Speaker (1528-71); Sir Richard Onslow, 1st Baron Onslow (1654-1717); and Arthur Onslow, Great Speaker (1691-1768).

Sir Richard, 1st Baron Onslow, was probably responsible for laying out the formal gardens, but it was his son, Sir Thomas Onslow, 2nd Baron Onslow, speaker Arthur’s elder brother, who built the house that we visited last year.

Clandon Park - rear entrance (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Clandon Park - rear entrance (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The building of Clandon Park

Sir Thomas commissioned the Italian architect Giacomo Leoni to rebuild Clandon in his version of the Palladian style, financed by his advantageous marriage to the Jamaican heiress Elizabeth Knight. The building work probably took place during the 1720s and was designed to impress as well as entertain his guests. His visitors included royalty - Frederick, Prince of Wales, George III’s father, dined at Clandon on 27 May 1729.

Clandon Park, Surrey from Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
Clandon Park, Surrey
from Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
The Georgian Onslows of Clandon Park

Sir Thomas Onslow, 2nd Baron Onslow (1679-1740), who built Clandon Park.

Richard, 3rd Baron Onslow (1713-76), Sir Thomas’ son, who had an unhappy marriage and died childless.

George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow (1731-1814), Richard’s cousin and son of the Great Speaker, Arthur Onslow. George was a very enthusiastic MP who frequently changed his loyalties to both people and policies. After his elevation to the House of Lords, he held posts in George III’s household, culminating in his appointment as a Lord of the Bedchamber in 1780. George employed Capability Brown to landscape the park and made alterations inside the house in the Neo-classical style.

George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow  from The History of White's   by Hon Algernon Bourke (1892)
George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow
from The History of White's
 by Hon Algernon Bourke (1892)
Thomas Onslow, 2nd Earl of Onslow (1754-1827), George’s eldest surviving son. He was known as ‘little Tom Onslow’ because of his height. Thomas was a close friend of the future George IV until 1790. He wrote poetry and loved to play practical jokes. But his real passion was horses, and he delighted in assuming the role of coach driver, as was fashionable amongst young men of the time. He was very attached to both of his two wives and was a great admirer of Mrs Bouverie.

Clandon Park was given to the National Trust in 1956. Nearly all the house was destroyed by a fire that broke out in the basement on 29 April 2015.

The house

One of the things I liked best about Clandon was the impressive entrance with two flights of stone steps leading to the front door. 
 
Front steps, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Front steps, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Stepping through the front door, we entered the most impressive room in the house - the Marble Hall - which was totally destroyed by the fire. These photographs were taken in July 2014.

The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014)
© Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles - from the description of items salvaged, I think this painting by Francis Barlow was saved
Painting by Francis Barlow
in The Marble Hall, Clandon Park
(July 2014) © Andrew Knowles (1)
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
  The ceiling of the Marble Hall,  Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The ceiling of the Marble Hall,
Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Chair in the Marble Hall, Clandon Park  (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles (1)
Chair in the Marble Hall, Clandon Park
(July 2014) © Andrew Knowles (1)
Miraculously, the Speakers’ Parlour, designed to celebrate the three Onslow speakers, survived largely intact. See the National Trust website here.

Some of the house’s possessions were rescued in the initial salvage operation including the hangings of the state bed and a painting of the House of Commons by Sir James Thornhill and William Hogarth (1730).

You can see pictures of other rooms at Clandon Park before the fire on the National Trust website here.

Note
(1) From the description of items salvaged from the fire here, I believe these objects were saved.

Sources used include:
Barker, GFR, revised Smith, EA, Onslow, George, 1st Earl of Onslow (1731-1814), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 24 July 2015)
Chessum, Sophie and Rowell, Christopher, Clandon Park (National Trust guidebook) (2002, rev 2014)

History of Parliament online
National Trust website

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